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In Re A.C. et al., Persons Coming Under the Juvenile Court v. Marcela C

July 20, 2011


(Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. CK78884) APPEAL from orders of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Debra Losnick, Commissioner.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Epstein, P. J.


Affirmed and remanded.

*Pursuant to California Rules of Court, rules 8.1100 and 8.1110, this opinion is certified for partial publication with the exception of the factual and procedural summary and section I of the discussion.

Mother Marcela C. appeals from orders of the juvenile court terminating dependency jurisdiction and ordering visitation with her minor daughters who had been adjudged dependent minors under Welfare and Institutions Code section 300.*fn1 In the published portion of this decision, we conclude that the oral visitation order, which conflicts with the form final judgment, is controlling and is not an improper delegation of authority to determine the circumstances of visitation. In the unpublished portion, we affirm the order terminating dependency jurisdiction because the conditions justifying dependency jurisdiction no longer exist.


Mother, Marcela C., and father, Wilbur C., divorced in 2001. Their family law case was still open in 2009. They had two daughters, A.C. and Daphne, who were 15 and 12 years old respectively in September 2009. The family court had awarded full custody of the children to mother with visitation to father. Mother attempted suicide on March 27, 2009 and was involuntarily hospitalized as a danger to herself and others, and because she was gravely disabled. Father stayed with the children at mother's apartment until she was discharged on March 30, 2009 and resumed living with the children.

The minors lived with mother until August 2009 when mother asked father to take the girls because she wanted them to live with him due to stress she was experiencing. In early September 3, 2009, mother sought to have the children returned to her under the previous family law order. The children wanted to remain with father and mother agreed. But two days later, mother sought police assistance to have the children returned to her. The children were adamant that they were afraid of their mother because of her prior suicide attempt and hysterical behavior. A children's social worker and police officers went to father's home and interviewed father, his live-in girlfriend, and the children. The minors told the social worker that while they loved their mother, they did not feel safe with her because of problems including mother's severe mood swings and yelling. Both told the social worker that they wanted to live with father.

In an interview with the social worker, mother reported a history of domestic violence inflicted by father during their marriage. She said she suffered from depression and anxiety and had been hospitalized and medicated for these conditions, although she had discontinued the medication. Mother regretted attempting suicide in the presence of the minors and said she was doing much better. She attributed her mood swings and yelling at the minors to problems in getting the girls to take care of their chores at home and because A.C. wanted to date. Mother believed the minors preferred to live with father because he did not require them to abide by rules and gave them expensive gifts. She denied asking father to take custody of the girls.

The Department of Children and Family Services (the Department) filed a petition alleging the children came within section 300 because mother's mental and emotional condition and the history of domestic violence endangered the children's physical and emotional health and safety. The children were placed in protective custody and released to the custody of father. An amended petition was sustained, the children were declared dependents under section 300, and the Department was ordered to provide family reunification services for mother and family maintenance services for father. Counseling was ordered for the children, with conjoint counseling with mother when the children's therapist deemed it appropriate. Mother was ordered to have individual counseling. Upon written documentation that father previously had completed domestic violence and parenting classes, the court ordered that he need not complete other programs. Mother was to be provided monitored visitation in a therapeutic setting and did not object to this order.

On February 8, 2010, counsel for mother raised an issue regarding visitation and individual counseling for the minors as a walk on. She said that the minors only had individual counseling twice in the preceding five-month period, and requested that their counseling occur on a weekly basis. In addition, mother had not been allowed to visit the children more than once. Counsel for all parties, including mother, agreed to have two more visits between mother and the children in a therapeutic setting, followed by monitored weekly visits.

A hearing pursuant to section 364 was held on June 1, 2010. The social worker reported that mother had completed 17 individual therapy sessions. The children had four individual counseling sessions between November 2009 and January 2010, which stopped when they began conjoint counseling with mother. Father provided proof that he had completed a 52-session program in 2004. The social worker confirmed that mother had three visits with the children in February, April and May 2010. Mother had to cancel some visits because of her work schedule and the children also cancelled visits as they remained resistant to visits with mother. On May 12, 2010, the children told the social worker they wanted to live with father.

The Department recommended that jurisdiction over the children be terminated, that the matter be stayed pending receipt of a family law court order granting father sole physical custody, and joint legal custody to mother and father. The Department explained that the basis for these recommendations was that the relationship between mother and the children remained frustrating and in conflict despite mother's compliance with orders and case plans. Father had demonstrated the ability to meet the needs of the children. The contested hearing was continued at mother's request.

The interim review report prepared for the July 19, 2010 section 364 hearing stated that the last conjoint therapy session between mother and the children was held on May 15, 2010. The therapist reported that no further sessions were scheduled since the girls continued to express a great deal of anger toward mother because of her suicide attempt, issues with trust, and feelings of abandonment and rejection. A.C. was more open to rebuilding a relationship with mother, but Daphne avoided even eye contact with mother. Both girls expressed resentment and anger ...

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